Tree Drilling

Article by Bruce Gow
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“Not all pest control experts go the extra mile and conduct a tree drilling during an inspection. We know that in some cases tree drilling is essential and we don’t cut corners when it comes to pest control!” – Bruce Gow

Tree Drilling to Locate Termites

Mention tree drilling for termites to most homeowners, and you’ll draw a blank stare. Tree drilling is rarely conducted when a regular termite inspection is undertaken, and even when the presence of termites is suspected or confirmed, not all termite control operators will undertake the step of tree drilling.

Why tree drilling to find termites may be necessary

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If there is evidence of termites on your property, most diligent termite experts will attempt to locate the termite colony so that it can be eradicated. Tree drilling may be a component of your termite expert’s search because the subterranean termites that are so troublesome to Australian homeowners occasionally built their colony in an old tree stump or in the base of a living tree.

There are often no external signs of their presence so drilling test holes in trees is a method used to check for the presence of a termite colony so that a termite treatment that aims to eliminate the colony can be applied.

Should your termite inspector be tree drilling to check for termites?

Whether a termite inspector should undertake tree drilling to look for termites will depend on the circumstances of the inspection and the property. Tree drilling isn’t always necessary, particularly where regular inspections have been conducted with no evidence of termite presence. However, if termites are prevalent in the area and you suspect a colony may be nearby, tree drilling might be considered at an extra cost. And if termites are already present in your home, a diligent search for the colony may certainly involve tree drilling.

How is it done?

This usually involves drilling a small number of holes in the tree, then inserting a probe that measures the temperature inside the tree. A high temperature may indicate the presence of termites. If the tree drilling confirms their presence, a termite treatment can be distributed through the colony via the holes.

Will the drill holes kill the tree?

It’s unlikely that the test holes will kill your tree. After inspection your termite expert should treat the ‘wound’ with a fungicide and fill in the hole so that it has the least possible impact on the tree.

A recommended option for complete protection is to monitor the barriers with termite bait stations. An average of 25 bait stations will cost around $2,000 to $3,000. We do not recommend baiting as a stand alone treatment except where termite barriers are not feasible.

Our real point of difference in termite control is detection and treatment of the nest, which is usually located in gum trees within 50 metres of the infestation.

Many pest control firms either ignore the trees, or test drill and treat only one or two “suspect” trees using only 1 or 2 holes.

I hope you find the following useful:

How to Detect and Treat Termite Colonies in Trees

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All large eucalypt trees (trunks greater than 30 cm in basal diameter) or stumps within 50 metres should be checked. One indication of termite activity within trees is the presence of hollow broken branches, or mud tracking. This is only indicative and a more reliable method is to test by drilling the tree.

N.B. Large trees need 4-6 holes drilled to effectively locate the colonies

A drill auger (not larger than 12 mm diameter) should be used to bore holes towards the centre of the tree. If termites are present the centre will be hollow or filled with ‘mud-guts’ and the auger will suddenly penetrate the tree easily. A thermometer may be used to determine if the nest has been located.

To determine if termites are still active within the tree, termites may appear on the auger or a long twig can be inserted into the drill hole and left in place for several minutes.

The twig is then withdrawn and checked for termites. Trees found to harbour termites should be treated with termiticide through the auger hole or with arsenic trioxide.

All drill holes drilled in trees must be plugged with a non-toxic acrylic caulking compound, such as bathroom sealant or antifungal agents specifically designed for this purpose. We use Pascal’s “Stop Rot” to protect the trees from fungal decay.

Do not use dead wood such as dowelling as it prevents the tree from healing or silicon sealants as they contain harmful solvents, which can damage the tree.

If you have termites on your property, locating the colony is a vital step if you hope to eradicate the termites and reduce the risk to your home.
It won’t always be necessary for your termite expert to undertake tree drilling however, if your property contains trees or old tree stumps, you’ll want to engage a termite expert who does include tree drilling if necessary in the search for the termite colony that is threatening your home.

Call Bruce on 0417 251 911 or send us a message if you have a problem with termites, or would like to order an inspection.